Tue. Jan 28th, 2020

The Informer

Place where all voices matter

A Short Hop From U.S., Some Canadians Opt to Just Stay Put

3 min read

TORONTO — From Windsor, Ontario, it’s just a 10-minute drive over the Ambassador Bridge or through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to downtown Detroit. People cross all the time to work, shop, visit a gallery, go to a show or a game. Taxis regularly make the trip, and there’s even a Windsor city bus route through the tunnel.

But President Trump’s policies about who will be allowed to cross the border have Canadians so worried that school officials in and around Windsor have decided to suspend all student field trips to the American side.

“It was the prudent thing to do because there is so much confusion and uncertainty,” said Scott Scantlebury, spokesman for the Greater Essex County District School Board, which represents 35,000 students, many of them immigrants or the children of immigrants. “We don’t want to have some student turned back at the border, or even held up for a period of time.”

The school board’s decision was just one sign of the growing apprehension on the Canadian side of the border.

Stories of Canadian Muslims with immigrant backgrounds being stopped and turned away from the border have roared across the country over the past week, as well as accounts of refugees fleeing the States and sneaking illegally the other way.

Canadians are concerned that American border officials are taking Mr. Trump’s travel ban to heart, even though his executive order barring people from certain Muslim countries has been suspended by the courts.

“It is like 9/11 all over again,” said Victor Konrad, a research professor at Carleton University who has written about the border. “Right after 9/11, most Canadians became very apprehensive about crossing the border. Many found themselves actually excluded from the United States.”

Students from the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor decided to not risk going to Detroit last week for a lecture on cross-border economics, even though the ban was suspended, said Mark High, the president of the group that organized the lecture, the Canada-United States Business Association.

“It was quite a disappointment, certainly, for those students, who couldn’t come two miles,” Mr. High said, adding that he could see the Odette School from his office in Detroit. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg. People are not very comfortable with making the trip anymore.”

Windsor has an unusually diverse population for a city its size (about 217,000 people). About 20 percent of people have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French, according to the 2011 census, and a number of Syrian refugees have recently arrived.

“We are at the end of the underground railroad,” said Brian Masse, who represents Windsor in Parliament. “Our culture is steeped in diversity and history.”

An American official said travelers had no reason to worry about arbitrary stops. Customs and Border Protection “firmly denies any claims that a traveler may be subject to an admissibility interview because of racial or religious profiling,” Jaime Luis, a branch chief for the agency, said in an email. Though enhanced screening is not unusual, he said, officers “adhere to the highest standards of professionalism.”

Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border, but there are few places where they live lives more entwined with their American counterparts than in Windsor. As much as one-quarter of all cargo moving between Canada and the United States goes through Windsor. On average, 24,000 cars and 7,100 trucks make the crossing each day, according to the University of Windsor’s Cross-Border Institute.

Mr. Masse, the lawmaker, noted that he had season tickets to the Detroit Lions, passed down through his family for 55 years. Now he is wondering whether he will keep them.

“You could be over there, at any moment there could be a court ruling, another decision; the president could do something else,” he said.